Long waits to get an appointment and long waits once arriving at the doctor’s office are a notorious problem. Some have suggested taking lessons from how restaurants operate and others have turned to more thoughtful approaches such as open access scheduling and capacity balancing.
But medical offices will never be as convenient as retail stores that have been designed with the convenience of customers in mind. Unless, of course those medical offices are actually in retail stores. CVS and others have begun to open MinuteClinics and similar concepts in some of their stores. Six MinuteClinics have opened recently in CVS’s in Nashville, according to the Tennessean. The clinics, which are staffed by nurse practitioners are small and focused. They charge $49 for most services. CVS hopes to benefit because MinuteClinic customers are likely to fill prescriptions at CVS and buy OTC products.
A physician in the article questions whether patients will really want to see a nurse practitioner instead of a physician. It’s a fair question. My experience with nurse practitioners (mainly at our pediatrician’s office) has been negative. We’ve been offered bad advice and misdiagnoses. On the other hand, if we need an appointment in a hurry a nurse practitioner is often the only one who’s available anyway. Other people like nurse practitioners because they are perceived to be more empathetic than physicians and less rushed.
A bigger issue may be the MinuteClinic business model. At such a low price point they need to see a lot of patients to generate a profit. The demographic they draw may not be that attractive, and if the clinics become too popular it’s hard to meet the promise of a 15 minute or less wait.
Welcome Grand Rounds readers! While you are here, please consider visiting the rest of the Health business blog.September 13, 2005